What it means to have Pride

Welcome to June, the month I finally get to begin my (short) summer, the weather really starts heating up, and the world gets to celebrate something very important.

Welcome to Pride Month.laura-ockel-197421.jpg

If you’ve been on Google today you might have seen the rainbow colors on their doodle for the day, that is something special. Those colors represent the birthday of Gilbert Baker, the man who designed what is now known as the flag that represents LGBTQ+. Though he passed away just this year in March, his activism and his flag, has spread through this world in a way that is very much alive.

That’s what this month is about.

For those of you who do not know, Pride month itself and the celebration of its essence began back in 1969 with the Stonewall Riots: a stand against police harassment towards a group of gay customers in Greenwich Village, New York. At the time, most states had laws passed against the group gathering of LGBTQ+ people, gay bars, and public homosexuality. This riot began in protest of discrimination in the Stonewall Inn, and as people shouted “gay power”, standing up up for their own human rights, they stated something they never saw coming.  

Protests lasted for days with even 1,000 people attending at once. Ultimately, this led to the Gay Liberation Movement and Christopher Street Liberation Day which happened on June 28, 1970; the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots with as well as the first Gay Pride march in U.S. history. It covered an entire 51 blocks through to Central Park.
F3FH5XYZY0Known as the “Mother of Pride” for her help in organizing the march, Brenda Howard originated the celebrations  and festivities held every June and also coined what we now know as the term
Pride.

From there the movement spread, as all movements do, to San Francisco and LA, then Boston and Dallas, and so many more places before the culture behind it had shifted completely into something global. Something stronger. Here in the United States, it took us until our 42nd President, Bill Clinton, to recognize Pride on June 2, 2000. Since then, both Clinton and Obama acknowledged this month, however, President Trump could have been the first Republican President to do so. The future of that possibility is yet to be seen.

Around the world, we celebrate the people who make up the 7.4 billion population we are surrounded by. Among those who have passed away, many of the most incredible people were also a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Have you ever heard of Bessie Smith, Empress of the Blues, and one of the highest paid black entertainers of all time? Maybe you know of, Tennesee Williams, writer of the Glass Menagerie? Or how about Sally Ride, the first woman in space? Each of them were a part of LGBTQ+ history, a part of what this world has now come to celebrate, and major contributors to the music, entertainment, and accomplishments of the United States.

We cannot celebrate our history without recognizing all the pieces of it. Just like Black History Month or Women’s History Month,

sorasak-217807 (1)we celebrate Pride as more than a month, but an appreciation for every person it applies to. Because no matter what a person identifies with or what defines who they are, they just might change the world someday. I know some LGBTQ+ people who have already changed mine.

Before Baker’s flag emerged in 1978, the symbol of gay pride was a pink triangle— Hitler made homosexuals wear them as a tag during World War Two. We have come a long way, legalizing gay marriage two years ago, but there is still a long road ahead as the world around us becomes more accepting of what being an “American” really means. From accepting that racism is still an issue to coming to terms with the status of our Earth’s climate, things have changed a lot since I was born, but not as much as I believe they will in the future.

One way or another, an easy way to bring change is with education— today, I hope you learned a little bit more about what Pride Month really means. Whether you identify with, support, or simply understand the community, know that like any other identity in this world, it deserves to be respected at the very least. If you join in on the celebration this year, at a Pride parade or anywhere else, it’s important to know the boundaries not to cross— how to appreciate without accidentally discriminating. Like Gilbert Baker believed when creating the flag, “We needed something beautiful, something from us. The rainbow is so perfect because it really fits our diversity in terms of race, gender, ages, all of those things.”

Not only did he create a beautiful flag, he created a safe space for more equality, brought people together, and probably changed so many lives in the process. Because thdimitar-belchev-235925at is the beauty change in this world and the ability people have to come together in communities. In a world of 7.4 billion people and 12 months to celebrate each of every one of us, this one is for LGBTQ+. And that is the beauty of Pride.

P.S. If you want to learn any more, click on all those blue words and it’ll take you right to the info!

Let’s talk about College

It’s that time of year again, if you’re part of the Class of 2017, then you know exactly what time I’m talking about— it’s time to make some decisions.mohamed-nohassi-191165

Even though I have two and a half weeks left in my second quarter of freshman year, I remember the stress of college decisions and acceptances like it was yesterday. There were so many questions running around in my head: what am I going to major in, how far is too far, what if I don’t get in, why did I get rejected, how do I decide… As much fun as senior year holds, these decisions have a way of consuming everything you do for the few weeks you find yourself unsure about where to go or what to do. In hindsight, it was all a bit simpler than I could have possibly seen, I mean I’m in college aren’t I? The most important thing you need to know:

You will end up right where you need to be.

I know it sounds cliche, but the point is, there are always more options. This is a big month for most of you and there are a lot of college acceptance decisions coming out within the next few weeks. While some of you know where you’re headed, some of you don’t.

Just know this— that’s okay.

Last year, two hours before I needed to submit my decision of intent for one college, I was sitting in my room with a list of four colleges, their pros and cons, and a coin in my hand. I took one look at Nick and I asked him, “Heads or tails?” After a lot of back and forth, I finally settled on Howard University in DC and Nick chose Purdue University in Indiana (currently waitlisted by Cal Poly).

Did you notice that neither of us ended up at either of those schools?

If there was one thing I wish I knew, it would be that there are so many ways for your circumstances to turn out the way they need edmundas-stundzius-183589to be. I thought I would be at Howard University, with about two months left of school to go. Instead I am here at Cal Poly with Nick, on the other side of the country from where I was going to be, and now we have three months left to go with finals in two weeks. That’s the crazy fact about college and our futures, it’s always going to change.

I think one of the main concepts I was worried about when getting into college was not feeling like I chose the right school, or finding myself stuck in a position I couldn’t get out of. Committing to a school felt like I was etching my future into stone— once I made that decision, I couldn’t change it.

I was wrong.

Because right now, I am changing my major. A month before I was supposed to start at Howard, I changed my college. Don’t underestimate the power of an appeal, or a waitlist. If you really want something, do everything in your power to make it happen. The decisions you make now have the potential to impact a lot, but no matter what you choose, believe in the choice you make. Last year, I wish I remembered to congratulate myself for choosing to pursue more education in a future I wanted. As long as you’re going after success and happiness in the future (whether you’re going to college or pursuing another path), you cannot ask any more of yourself. So be proud of it.

A key point about choosing your college, pay attention to the people you’re about to surround yourself with for the next four years. I’ll be completely honest, I was not prepared for the lack of diversity at this school. Would that have changed my decision? I have no idea, but I’ve made a handful of wonderful friends that have made all the difference in my freshman year so far. When you toured colleges, maybe you paid attention to the campus hills and the dining options, but don’t forget about the people. They can make a pretty big difference.

Are you going to want to wake up on that campus every day to go to class?

Can you handle being surrounded by the demographics and the attitudes of the people around you?

Just make sure that you’re asking the hard questions, considering anything and everything you can about both opportunity and what it’ll be like to live there. This is yoerik-heddema-1380ur future, a bright one, and this decision is completely yours to make.

No matter what you end up doing, just remember that you deserve to be proud of yourself. You’ve made it through 4 years of high school, you’re graduating in two months… This is a time to get excited about your future. You’ve done the work, you are everything you need to be.

Choose your school wisely, but take a moment to look around at where you want to be for the next four years. Here’s to an amazing journey coming to an end just for another one to start, why not make it count?

I wish each and every one of you the best of luck in all the decisions you’re about to make, you’ve got 2 months left of high school. Trust me, it all goes by pretty quickly.

More than a label, More than a month

I could have sworn that this quarter just began a week ago, let alone Black History Month, yet somehow there are three weeks left before these classes are over. This is my final post on the black history month subject.

But that’s the thing, it isn’t simply a subject to me— just because tycho-atsma-181053.jpgwe spend a month celebrating black heritage doesn’t mean that I am not reminded of who we all are every single day, 365 days a year. I walk around this campus not only underrepresented by the color of my skin, but overwhelmed by this life I hold.

Every day, I am reminded that no matter our race and the history behind our heritage, we are all still human.

Yesterday, I spent my typical Thursday night working on chemistry and studying with Nick in the common room of my dorm. Even after everyone left, we hung out for a while just talking and somehow, we ended up on the broad spectrum of life.

Why do we live our lives the way we do?

Is it always going to be simply one step to the next?

After 12 years of education to get into college, do we work through college to get a job, before working that job to pay the bills and finally, raising our own children until it’s their turn?

Are we going to look back one day and realize that we forgot to live?

anders-jilden-87205.jpgEven more than representing Cal Poly, more than what people see in the color of our skin, it seems that what we get out of this life comes down to how we want to live it— how we live it, and for what. We all have a certain amount of control on how things turn out for us, just take a look at my blog post last week… I could be an English major, Kinesiology major, or something else entirely. The future is a story yet to be written.

So why does it feel like some of us already know what’s coming?

I’ve been told that the problem with our generation, universally across each of us, is that we are always rushing from one thing to the next that we never take a moment to breathe it all in. This is life isn’t it? I have to admit, amidst the midterms and the planning, it takes me a minute to remember that we only have so much time in the day to appreciate the fact that I saw the sun rise in the morning. This is a beautiful life; one the we just might let slip through our fingers if we’re not careful.

Have you ever looked at a friend or a family member for a quick second and found yourself caught in a moment of appreciation for who they are to you? I know I’ve found myself doing that a lot more lately, like seeing my parents this last weekend or even just hanging out with Nick last night. Even though this campus is primarily white, somehow my closest group of friends is one of the most diverse groups of people I have ever consistently been around. Some days I catch myself looking from one of them to the next and wondering, what does it mean to be who you are?

wil-stewart-7771Though I may be so much more than my skin tone, it is still something that will define me and every single one of us for the rest of our lives. The month of February represents a large part of who I am, but that does not mean that this is the only time of year our heritage is recognized. It’s like a birthday or even Valentine’s Day— just because there is separate day of the year to celebrate something does not mean that you show any less love to those people for the other 364 days of the year.

A person’s pigmentation is more than a label or a stereotype.

Heritage celebration is so much more than a single month of remembering the Martin Luther King’s or the Harriet Tubman’s of our past.

Who we are and the lives that we strive for come down to what is in our hearts and what we do with the intelligence we hold to make this world into something better.

Life is about improvement, accomplishment… The little victories I know we can all achieve.  

Take a look in the mirror for me, look past the colors you see or the texture of your hair. Tell me one thing: did you find a way to live this life today? I don’t mean going to work, or to class, or simply getting out of bed this morning… Did you live this life today?anja-137284

Because with everything else that you see in yourself or what others see in my generation, I would like to believe in something more. I would like to believe that things can change, the pace of this world can be something worth living in every day, and that color of my skin can be something more than a visual representation of everything I know I can be.

P.S. To the Class of 2017, I’ve got another post for you next week so be on the lookout for a little advice on college, graduation, and everything in between!

Strong Independent Black Woman

There’s something about growing up as a young minority child in the twenty first century— it’s made me who I am. rock-eautyMy parents have raised me to be intelligent in every way possible, responsible for the mistakes I make, and strong enough to push past anything that may hold me back. They told me that I am capable of everything I put my mind to. What does my mom like to tell me?

I am a strong independent black woman.

There are things that I am that will change as I get older, for I am a teenager, but not for much longer, and I am a college freshman, but only for another four months…These labels are temporary, as many are in this life. But what is one label I can never shed? The color of my skin.

So why not be proud of it?

Last week I talked a lot about representing the African American minority here at Cal Poly, with an even smaller group in the STEM careers. It is something I am proud of and am reminded that I am entirely capable of— coming into the school as a student in science is something I believed I wanted.

Now I’m not so sure.


Because as you all know, I LOVE writing. If I had to do something for the rest of my life, it will involve english no matter what happens. All my friends here know that I love to write as major part of my life, it’s hard not to know from the amount of quotes I’m always dropping into conversations. Even though I am crock-in-handurrently a chemistry major with an idea to switch into Kinesiology, like I said, things are changing.

If you’ve been following my blog posts since the beginning, you might remember the quote from my parents that said “minor in something you love, major in something you can pay the bills with.” I used to think those were two completely different things… Lately, I’ve been thinking that they are one in the same. What if I can do both in one, two birds with one stone so-to-speak?

There’s something about growing up as a young minority child in the twenty first century— it’s made me who I am. My parents have raised me to be intelligent in every way possible, responsible for the mistakes I make, and strong enough to push past anything that may hold me back. They told me that I am capable of everything I put my mind to. What does my mom like to tell me?

I am a strong independent black woman.

There are things that I am that will change as I get older, for I am a teenager, but not for much longer, and I am a college freshman, but only for another four months…These labels are temporary, as many are in this life. But what is one label I can never shed? The color of my skin.

So why not be proud of it?

Last week I talked a lot about representing the African American minority here at Cal Poly, with an even smaller group in the STEM careers. It is something I am proud of and am reminded that I am entirely capable of— coming into the school as a student in science is something I believed I wanted.

Now I’m not so sure.

Because as you all know, I LOVE writing. If I had to do something for the rest of my life, it will involve english no matter what happens. All my friends here know that I love to write as major part of my life, it’s hard not to know from the amount of quotes I’m always dropping into conversations. Even though I am currently a chemistry major with an idea to switch into Kinesiology, like I said, things are changing.

If you’ve been following my blog posts since the beginning, you might remember the quote from my parents that said “minor in something you love, major in something you can pay the bills with.” I used to think those were two completely different things… Lately, I’ve been thinking that they are one in the same. What if I can do both in one, two birds with one stone so-to-speak. Like my parents taught me, I am capable of anything I put my mind to.BIRD PICTURE.

But wait? What about representing black females in STEM, especially here at Cal Poly?

Here’s the thing about being a minority, currently headed towards a career where I believe we need far more representation than we already have— we are underrepresented and under pursued in STEM, however it isn’t my job to change that. So what is my job? It is my job to find something I know I can excel at and go change this world with everything I am, whether it means that I write a book to impact just one person’s life or find another way to have an impact. No matter where I end up, I know one thing for sure:

I am a representation of the color of my skin. And I am ready to show that we are capable of anything and everything we put our minds to.

Maybe I could be good at both writing and a science centered career, I see nothing wrong with that. My only issue, I don’t want to be good at anything… I want to be great. The people who have had a large impact in my life, from my parents and my best friends to celebrities and authors, have all done something big to change a part of who I am. How did they do that? By being exceptional at being who they are and the jobs they are here to do. Don’t get me wrong, good is always okay. But great… Now that’s something I can aim for.

I am eighteen, I am a college freshman, and I an an African American. Two out of these three things will change within the next four months of my life. But that last one? That last one is something I walk around with on my skin every single day of my life and I am proud to represent, it has made me who I am. So whether I do follow through in STEM or do something different all together, I plan to be the best I can possibly be and nothing less.

For I am a representation of women, black students, and everything inbetween. Minor in something you love, major in something you can pay the bills with.

Maybe I’m one of the lucky ones who can find a way to make it both.

Like my parents taught me, I am capable of anything I put my mind to.

But wait? What about representing black females in STEM, especially here at Cal Poly?

Here’s the thing about being a minority, currently headed towards a career where I believe we need far more representation than we already have— we are underrepresented and under pursued in STEM, however it isn’t my job to change that. So what is my job? It is my job to find something I know I can excel at and go change this world with everything I am, whether it means that I write a book to impact just one person’s life or find another way to have an impact. No matter where I end up, I know one thing for sure:

I am a representation of the color of my skin. And I am ready to show that we are capable of anything and everything we put our minds to.

Maybe I could be good at both writing and a science centered career, I see nothing wrong with that. My only issue, I don’t want to be good at anything… I want to be great. The people who have had a large impact in my life, from my parents and my best friends to celebrities and authors, have all done something big to change a part of who I am. How did they do that? By being exceptional at being who they are and the jobs they are here to do. Don’t get me wrong, good is always okay. But great… Now that’s something I can aim for.

I am eighteen, I am a college freshman, and I am an African American. Two out of these three things will change within the next four months of my life. But that last one? That last one is something I walk around with on my skin every single day of my life and I am proud to represent, it has made me who I am. So whether I do follow

read-book-tablethrough in STEM or do something different all together, I plan to be the best I can possibly be and nothing less.

For I am a representation of women, black students, and everything inbetween. Minor in something you love, major in something you can pay the bills with.

Maybe I’m one of the lucky ones who can find a way to make it both.

Time for Change

Think of the words black excellence and what comes to mind? Maybe it makes you think about my blog post last week or the poem I posted on Monday. Or at Howard University, it not only defines the pride of the student body, but also the truth of how excellent each and every student there is, from their academics to their talents. But what does it mean here at Cal Poly?

What does it mean for me?mountain beauty.jpg

Here at Cal Poly, as 1/240, the words black excellence mean representation. Sitting in my cultural Kinesiology class on Monday, we did an exercise on privilege throughout the classes demographic. The rules were simple: Take a look at the list in front of you, from not hearing racial slurs towards you to living as a majority, and add one for each that fits, subtract one for each that does not. As my class went outside and demonstrated out numbers by stepping off of a line together, the gap in our equality was unmistakable.

I took 15 steps back. The one person that far back with me? The only other African American in my class.

This is what I don’t think we emphasize enough here at Cal Poly. We are told to celebrate our similarities in that we are all here and getting a good education, but what about our differences? What about the things that make each and every one of us unique? This campus claims to be diverse, but I only see that in the sexuality of its student body. We are still a majority white campus, not to say this campus isn’t full of brilliant minds, but it’s hard to look around and know that I can count the number of black people from all of my classes this year on one hand.perilice road.jpg

There is something missing.

I believe in the beauty of diversity, of all different people from different backgrounds and different cultures striving to come together and create a better future in this world. There is something so different about a group of people who all think differently or have experienced a seperate lifestyle from one another— the ideas that can come out of a group like that, it just might change the world.

Yet I don’t know when that kind of change will happen, not when there are only 240 of us here to attempt that change at such a well reputable University. We can’t do this on our own, nevertheless it seems that nothing is changing. What about the rest of the brilliant minds who never got the chance to go to college? Or those caught up in the trials of life, too busy taking care of families and getting food on the table to even consider going back to school? We all come from different walks of life, different cultures, ethnicities, and opportunities. In a school where we take pride in our “diversity” and a world where it seems we will become the change that generations have been waiting for, I have to wonder what kind of difference we can possibly make when everyone is on the same page only because the majority is writing the book.

There has to be more than this.

In a world where tomorrow seems like it is in our hands, yet so far away at the same time, this idea leaves me restless in wondering what is to come. I can only hope it will be a brighter future than any one of us could imagine. In a quote by Maya Angelsplitshire-7553ou, “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” This world is one of beauty, from both the people in it to the capabilities we all hold. Tomorrow is another day, another opportunity to change this world we live in. Maybe if we’re lucky, if we can play our cards right, the words black excellence can mean more than a minority here at Cal Poly.